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Image: The 14 dreams

Title: The 14 dreams

Source:
Wellcome Trust Library
Shelfmark:
Gamma 453
Author:
unknown
Date of creation:
1512
Folio number:
22 recto
Total number of folios:
139
Place of creation:
western India
Language:
Ardhamāgadhī Prākrit
Medium:
watercolour on paper
Copyright:
Wellcome Library, London
JAINpedia Copyright Information

Description

The caption in the top-left corner says: svapna 14 Triśalā – 'the 14 dreams [of] Triśalā'.

The dreams Triśalā has after finding out she is pregnant announce the greatness of the future baby, who will become Mahāvīra.

The order of the 14 auspicious dreams is always the same in the text of the Kalpa-sūtra, but the manuscript painters can choose how to use the space at their disposal. Here, one of the dreams is visually dominant – the one where the expectant mother sees the 'anointment' – Prakrit abhiseya, Sanskrit abhiṣeka. This abstract notion is represented by the goddess Śrī, indicating prosperity. She is depicted as a woman with four arms.

Starting from the top left and moving left to right, the sequence of the dreams is:

  1. elephant
  2. bull
  3. lion
  4. moon
  5. sun
  6. garland
  7. Śrī
  8. banner
  9. vase full of water
  10. lotus lake
  11. ocean of milk
  12. celestial palace
  13. heap of jewels
  14. fire.

Note that, although the dreams represented in the bottom row are much smaller than the others, all 14 dreams are equally important. Some dreams are shown smaller because the painter is using the space practically.

If the viewer is familiar with the fixed sequence of dreams, each one can be identified. This is frequently easier than recognising the symbols themselves.

Other visual elements

The original paper is slightly damaged. But, as with many Kalpa-sūtra manuscripts, there is a clear intention to make the manuscript a valuable and remarkable object in itself. This aim is signalled by the:

  • coloured background for the text
  • gold ink instead of the standard black ink
  • decorated border with blue floral motifs
  • one diamond filled with gold ink, with arrow-like blue lines and surrounding blue border as ornamental motifs.

The diamond in the centre is a symbolic reminder of the way in which manuscripts were bound when they were on palm leaf. Strings through holes in the paper were used to thread together the loose folios so the reader could turn them over easily. The diamond is in the place where one of the holes would once have been.

Background

This is the standard depiction of the 14 auspicious dreams in Kalpa-sūtra manuscripts created in western India.

The Kalpa-sūtra is the most frequently illustrated Jain text of the Śvetāmbara sect. It is read and recited by monks in the Śvetāmbara festival of Paryuṣaṇ, which takes place in August to September each year.

The first part of the Kalpa-sūtra deals with the lives of the Jinas, especially Mahāvīra, Pārśva, Nemi and Ṛṣabha. It features almost identical stories of their births, lives as princes, renunciation, enlightenment and final emancipation. The second part – Sthavirāvali – is a praise of the early teachers of Jainism. The third part – Sāmācārī – deals with particular monastic rules to be followed during the rainy season.

Glossary

Abhiṣeka
Anointing ceremony for a king, a Jina, a Jina image or any other holy image, with water or milk. Part of daily or special worship.
Kalpa-sūtra
The Book of Ritual attributed to Bhadrabāhu. It has three sections:
  1. 'Jina-caritra' – 'Lives of the Jinas'
  2. 'Sthavirāvalī' – 'String of Elders'
  3. 'Sāmācārī' – 'Right Monastic Conduct'.
A significant sacred text for Śvetāmbara Jains, the Kalpa-sūtra has a central role in the annual Paryuṣaṇ festival.
Kevala-jñāna
Omniscience, enlightenment or perfect knowledge – the highest of the five types of knowledge , where one knows everything wherever and whenever it is. It is extremely difficult to attain, equivalent to the 13th stage of spiritual purity in the guṇa-sthāna. Digambaras believe only men can achieve it whereas Śvetāmbaras believe that both men and women can become enlightened.
Paryuṣaṇ
An eight-day festival in August / September, which is the most important event of the religious calendar for Śvetāmbara lay Jains. They fast, read, spend time with monks and meditate. The last day is the occasion for public repentance. Reading the Kalpa-sūtra and sponsoring new manuscripts or editions of this canonical book are associated with this festival.
Śvetāmbara
'White-clad’ in Sanskrit, the title of one of the two main divisions of Jainism, in which both male and female mendicants wear white robes. There are some differences of doctrine or belief between these two sects and to some extent their followers consider themselves as belonging to distinct branches. Divisions can be fierce in practical matters, for example, over the ownership of pilgrimage places, but all sects see themselves as Jains.
Triśalā
The kṣatriya birth-mother of Mahāvīra. Queen Triśalā was married to King Siddhartha.
Monk
A man who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to formally enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, monks perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.
Rainy season
The annual four-month rainy period in India, lasting roughly from June / July to October / November. Heavy rain, strong storms and gale-force winds are very common during this period. Mendicants cannot travel around and must stay in one place to avoid breaking their vow of non-violence and because the monsoon makes travelling on foot difficult and dangerous. It is known as cāturmāsa in Sanskrit, comāsa in Hindi and comāsu in Gujarati.
Lotus lake
Lake Pushkar in modern-day Rajasthan is one of the five holiest pilgrimage sites for Hindus, who associate it with the Hindu trinity of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva. The god Brahmā killed a murderous demon with his weapon, the lotus flower. Three petals fell to the earth, each creating a lake now dedicated to each of the principal gods. Devotees believe that bathing in the lakes cures many skin diseases.
Ocean of milk
In Hindu cosmography, the ocean of milk surrounds the continent known as Krauncha and is the fifth of the seven oceans that surround loka or inhabited space. In Hindu myth the gods and demons use the snake-king Vasuki to churn the ocean of milk for a thousand years so that the nectar of immortality and other precious objects will rise to the surface.
Śrī
Hindu goddess of wealth, Śrī is the personification of spiritual energy and is closely associated with the lotus. Also a name for Lakṣmī, Hindu goddess of beauty, wisdom, fertility and wealth.
Auspicious
Favourable or lucky. Auspicious objects bring good fortune and may predict good events or a bright future. 

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